Open Source Tools worth the Attention of Every Windows System Admin
Windows system admins need a lot of tools to manage network and infrastructure. For startups and SMBs, it’s often required that system admins work using open source tools.
Of course, open source system admin tools are free of cost. That, however, is not all, because you need these tools to fulfill at least these basic criteria:
- Must fulfill the basic operational performance criteria
- Must be intuitive and easy to learn, preferably with a lot of web-based knowledge bases, such as online communities and forums
- Should be super secure
- Must have regular upgrades (check the number of upgrades and releases in the last 12 months)
- Should work with a large number of Internet protocols
Next, let’s tell you about some of the must-have open source tools for system admins.
Among the most popular and widely used network protocol analyzers, WireShark began as a project in 1998 and has continued to blossom because of contributions of networking experts from across the globe. WireShark is, in fact, the preferred system admins tool for government agencies, educational institutes, and non-profit institutions in several countries.
The kind of microscopic insights that this software offers system admins is essentially unmatched. It supports hundreds of protocols already, and the support set is constantly expanding. With offline analysis and live capturing, multi-platform compatibility, rich VoIP analyses, decryption support for most protocols, industry benchmark display filters, and a GUI to help you browse network traffic data, WireShark is all that system admin can ask for, and then some.
To make analyses quicker and more intuitive, you can apply color codes to packet lists and can export outputs to XML, plain text, CSV, and PostScript.
Ever since it became available for system admins in 1999, Putty has been the go-to terminal application for Windows systems. With Putty, you can access other terminals via command line interface. The interface allows you to connect to routers using telnet, SSH, and also serial connections. Also, it offers secure file transfer via SCP and SFTP.
Though there’s no scripting option, Putty can be customized to suit the system admins specific requirements, and that’s one of its special features. If you need to connect to remote systems on a regular basis, go for Putty. This open source software continues to enjoy a lot of popularity in the system admin community because there are fairly regular upgrades and a lot of online communities and forums that act as knowledge bases.
Email compliance has a visually impressive face, and that’s courtesy Mail Archiva, which has undergone a major facelift in its most recent version. You can push emails from Exchange to Mail Archiva, or use IMAP to retrieve emails from Exchange. You can access Mail Archiva in one of three configurations – cloud, ISP, and on-premise.
Among its most value adding features is predictive coding to automate the process of finding important documents from a larger mix, synonym search, finding similar documents and attachments, drag and drop of export files from desktop on to the export dialog box, and quick attachment peek (to check the contents of the attachment without downloading it.
The latest version of Mail Archiva offers impressive analytics, and the console now comes with icons, which makes the user experience all the more enriched.
Exchange 2013 RBAC Manager
For system admins working with role-based access control and Exchange, Exchange 2013 RBAC Manager is a must-have. Also called RBAC Editor GUI, this tool essentially works to overcome the absence of a GUI that system admins could use to work with the new role-based admin side of Exchange. Exchange 2013 RBAC Manager is built using C#; it uses Powershell in the backend to let you create roles in Exchange 2013 and manage your role related activities. RBAC administration doesn’t get any simpler than this. The RBAC support community is growing strong, which has made it all the most popular with system admins.
Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) tool
Expect PAL to be your best friend if you need to read performance monitor counter logs. PAL analyzes them using known thresholds relating to majority popular Windows products such as Active Directory, Exchange, and Share Point. The intuitive GUI of PAL helps you create batch files for the PAL script. You can easily generate HTML reports which are easy to copy and paste into other applications. The tool has been developed using Powershell script.
System admins need intuitive and feature-rich communication tools to be able to collaborate among themselves. Squiggle is growing in popularity, particularly for system admins in small businesses that don’t use Microsoft Lync or Skype. With Squiggle, system admins can even connect two LANs across different sub-networks. Group chat, broadcast chat, private chat – you name it, and the tool has it.
You don’t even need to install Squiggle; it’s basically a serverless peer to peer chat. Trust Squiggle to manage multiple high-speed transfers simultaneously. Squiggle offers you emoticons, spell checker, and audio alerts; it’s as good a text messaging tool as you’d ask for. You can even use it for voice chat, show pictures in it, access contact groups, and see chat history.
This open source network traffic monitoring tool helps system admins understand network usage in real time. Much like UNIX top command, it helps system admins identify big bandwidth consumers by preparing intuitive network utilization graphs such as MRTG and Cacti. You can use NetFlow and Flow data as input for analysis. Operating system sniffing and user identity indications come in very handy for system admins. System admins trust Ntop for network planning and optimization, and for the detection of network security violations. Ntop works with most Internet protocols provides RRD support for the purpose of storing traffic information per host and supports multiple network interfaces.
All the open source tools discussed in this guide are among the best in their categories, are regularly upgraded, have ample online documentation and knowledge bases, and secure. Start using them today.
Author: Rahul Sharma